French citizen kidnapped by Ansaru pleads for help in video

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A French hostage kidnapped by Islamist militants in Nigeria has asked for French and Nigerian government help in securing his release in a video released by his captors, according to the SITE web monitoring service.

If the video is confirmed as authentic it would be the first visual sign of life from Francis Collomp since around 30 gunmen stormed his compound on December 19 in the remote northern Nigerian town of Rimi, close to the Niger border where al Qaeda’s North African wing operates.

Western governments are increasingly concerned about Islamist militants in Africa’s Sahel region because of the risk it could become a platform for international jihadist attacks.

¬†Ansaru militants said soon after Collomp’s abduction that he had been taken in retaliation for France’s planned military action against jihadi insurgents in nearby Mali, launched a month later, and its ban on wearing the full-face veil.

Collomp, 63, an engineer who was working for French renewable energy firm Vergnet, appeared in the three-minute video posted on a jihadi forum which he said was filmed on September 25.

“It is urgent that my family and friends and my fellow citizens of France and anyone else that can do something. The French and the Nigerian governments should (get involved} for my sake and {pursue} negotiations for my safe release, please,” Collomp, wearing a white T-shirt with an unidentified armed man stood behind him, said in the video, speaking in English.

An Arabic-language message displayed at the end of the video said, according to SITE, “If you want to repeat your crazy ways in dealing with the events with excessive violence, then we will deal with you … Everything that happened to this French hostage is on you.” The message contained no clear demands.

Collomp’s wife said she was relieved her husband was alive.

“I didn’t even recognize my husband. I thought he looked very tired and thin,” Anne-Marie Collomp said on France Info radio on Saturday. “He is alive and that makes me happy but it still hurts. I hope it won’t last much longer and I hope that (President) Hollande will do everything he can to get him out.”

A French foreign ministry spokesman said the video was being analyzed and it was doing everything it could to free Collomp.

Britain has put Ansaru on its official “terrorist group” list, saying it is aligned with al Qaeda and was behind the kidnapping of a British and a Italian who were killed last year during a failed rescue attempt.

Ansaru’s full name is Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan, which roughly translates as “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa”.

The group claimed responsibility for a dawn raid on a major police station in the Nigerian capital Abuja in November, where it said hundreds of prisoners were released.

It is thought to have loose ties to the better-known Islamist militant sect Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in a four-year-long insurgency focused mostly on Nigerian security forces, religious targets and politicians.

Boko Haram and splinter groups like Ansaru pose the biggest security threat in Africa’s second biggest economy and top oil exporter, a major supplier to the Europe, Brazil and India.

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